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Port Richey police officer arrested by U.S. marshals

PORT RICHEY — A sergeant with the Port Richey Police Department was arrested Friday night by the U.S. Marshals Office and is being held in the Pinellas County Jail.

James R. Ruland, 33, is one of 12 full-time officers at the small agency. Port Richey police Chief Dave Brown would not say what crime Ruland is accused of committing.

Brown said Ruland was fired Friday after the agency learned of his arrest.

"We are in shock," Brown said Saturday night.

Brown said Ruland has been with the department for about eight years.

Ruland has been in the headlines before.

In 2003, the Times reported that Ruland was suspended for five days without pay after he took a police cruiser out of jurisdiction to investigate his girlfriend's purse being stolen at a New Port Richey nightclub.

Although Ruland was off duty, he and another deputy drove to the Hudson house of William Griffin — the man Ruland's girlfriend pegged as the thief. Griffin's mother answered the door. The deputies went inside without asking permission, arrested Griffin and refused to let him contact a lawyer.

Ruland drove Griffin to the Police Department — with his girlfriend riding in the front seat. But Griffin was driven back to his house soon after he arrived, because the other deputy involved, Ronald Heinemann, "determined that without stolen property, he could not make a case against Griffin."

Also in that year, Ruland was accused of abusing his power by arresting a woman because she threw her identification in his face and yelled at him after he determined her car was improperly parked.

At the time, then police Chief Bill Downs "defended Ruland as a young but hard-working and honest officer," a Times story about the 2003 incidents stated.

In 2006, Ruland won the agency's Exceptional Service Award for helping to track down a Colorado prisoner who escaped and had been on the lam for 35 years.

Ruland has no criminal record in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Late Saturday, no charges against Ruland appeared in federal court records.

Brown said the Port Richey department will issue a news release Monday.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Port Richey police officer arrested by U.S. marshals 02/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 20, 2010 10:43pm]

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